Here's what you'll notice when you walk up to Beren deMotier and Jannine Setter's home in Northeast Portland. You'll see the white minivan parked right outside, a signal of the kind of precious cargo this family transports. What reveals even more about this particular household, though, are the rainbow-colored flag and a silver banner hanging over the front porch.
That rainbow flag, the symbol of gay pride, wears the mark of time, its edges frayed and colors faded. As for the banner, it still looks fresh in the early-morning sunshine, and the slogan printed in block letters marks this as a home of newlyweds.
Beren and Jannine, both 39, have been together for 17 years, their March 3 wedding a new ceremony to mark an old relationship. Their home is curiously tidy, despite the fact that they are mothers to three children, two boys and a girl. The children range from 1 to 12 years old, all born of the same womb, Beren's, and of the same sperm donor, who remains anonymous.
Back in 1986, the women were acquaintances who both lived in Seattle. Just three days before Jannine headed off to graduate school in central Florida, the two realized they were both interested in something more than a friendship.
They maintained a long-distance relationship during the year-and-a-half Jannine was away. During the spring of 1987, Jannine came out to her parents but didn't tell many others. When the couple decided to have children, however, "that's when I came out completely," Jannine says. "You have to be OK with who you are to do that."
Since then, both say they've experienced support from their community of family, friends, teachers and doctors. Eventually, Jannine's reluctant family came around. "When it was time for the third child," Jannine says, "they were like, 'Bring it on.'"
That same level of enthusiasm followed the announcement of their wedding, which instead of the now-traditional ceremonial sprint was more like a 20-hour marathon. Or a parade stakeout, as Jannine first began waiting in line at the Multnomah County building the night of March 2. Later that evening, her partner brought the kids by for a visit with a lawn chair, sleeping bag and snacks.
The whole family reunited again on the sidewalk just after 5 am the next morning, and the kids appreciated the gifts that well-wishers were delivering up and down the line of waiting couples: boxes and boxes of Krispy Kremes. By 11:30 am, Jannine and Beren were officially married at their church, the First Unitarian, in downtown Portland.
"It was a shotgun wedding," Jannine likes to tell her family, "not because of a baby, but maybe an injunction."
Beren, a freelance writer, summed up her feelings about the day in an essay she wrote titled "They Can't Take This Away from Me."
It was, she says, "as if our entire history had led to this day when we would declare our love. It was exactly right to be covered in crumbs, in our jeans and not exactly sparkling."
When the newlyweds returned to their home that afternoon, they were greeted by congratulations. Relatives from around the Northwest--including a grandfather in Yakima who'd seen them on the Jim Lehrer news program--called, dropped by the house and delivered flowers. The newlyweds began planning a reception for the following weekend, and soon their home was overflowing with friends and out-of-town relatives. At the Sunday open house, the women celebrated by cutting into a cake that was topped with two ceramic brides.
That day, someone hung a silver banner above the front porch. "Just Married," it reads--not an injunction, not a protest flag, just a simple slogan that marks the newest beginning for this family of five.